The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway has finally opened to the public after closing in 2017 for improvements. The railway invested $100 million in new tracks and cars, shipped in from Switzerland, to carry folks up to the summit of Pikes Peak.
Assistant general manager Ted Johnston said it's one of only a few cog railways in the United States. He said he's hoping with the demand for travel destinations, the railway will see large numbers of visitors over the next few months.
"It's just exciting to move out of a project phase and into an operations phase," Johnston said. "Seeing people come through the doors, and have for most people a once-in-a-lifetime experience of taking the cog railway to Pikes Peak."
Johnston said the railway had a test run this past weekend with Broadmoor employees ahead of the opening.
"People waving to all of us on the platform as the train departed, it was really just like, we've done it," Johnston said. "We're here. And there's no turning back."
He said the railway had up to 300,000 visitors back in 2017, but it's hard to predict what will happen this year as COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease around the state.
"If we had been trying to reopen last year, we would have been in a world of hurt," Johnston said.
"Predicting demand, you obviously do it for business planning purposes, but to say that anybody can predict demand is just foolish."
The cog railway is requiring visitors to wear a mask on the train, and the city of Manitou Springs has also kept its mask mandate in place.
Manitou Springs Mayor John Graham said while the railway is one of the region's biggest draws, the city is concerned with traffic and mobility, especially given the uptick in visitors the city's seen recently.
"The last several months, the weekends have been extraordinarily busy," Graham said. "I kind of feel sometimes that we're in danger of being loved to death."
Spacing and parking are at the forefront of Graham's mind. The railway station is up a narrow two-lane corridor, said Graham, next to the Manitou Springs Incline, the city's other major tourist attraction.
To prepare, the station's parking lot has been expanded. Now, buses can fully turn around instead of having to do a four-point turn, said Johnston. The city has also set up shuttles to transport people from parking lots east of downtown Manitou Springs to the railway station.
Despite potential traffic issues, Graham said the train's legacy in Manitou Springs is something worth celebrating.
"The railroad has been part of Manitou for about 130 years, and now with the improvements they've put in, it should be good for another 100 years," Graham said. "Hopefully long after I'm gone, people will still be taking their kids up Pikes Peak and saying this is a great place to be."
People can purchase tickets to ride the railway train starting May 20.
The new Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center is also set to open in June.